Film Review – Flora & Ulysses (2021)

A new film that tells of a superhero squirrel getting his abilities and powers for the first time while hopefully saving the day? Sign us up. Yep, we were that easily sold on the latest film about to be unleashed on Disney+, but come now, who isn’t excited by the premise of this one? It’s a superhero squirrel and there doesn’t need to be another word said before you grab your remote, speak to Alexa and the rest is up to you. And it won’t be on a whim, either, for Flora & Ulysses is a real delight for all ages and the perfect family film for these dark and uncertain times that still surround us. Again, a superhero squirrel. Genius.

Based on the book by Kate DiCamillo, who also wrote The Tale of Despereaux and Because of Winn-Dixie, the titular Flora (Matilda Lawler) is an optimistic, positive young girl who seems fazed by nothing. Even the recent separation of her parents, George (Ben Schwartz) and Phyllis (Alyson Hannigan), doesn’t seem to have affected her, at least on the surface anyway and she’s always the bubbliest of kids. Much of her positivity comes from her obsession with comic-books and superheroes, with dad George drawing his own when she was little, though she doesn’t believe in their real existence – she is a cynic, so she tells us early on – but for as long as she has known, they have been part of her life. But in the shape of a squirrel who gains superpowers after an unfortunate run in with a neighbour’s hoover? Match made in heaven.

We know what you’re thinking: “More superhero content?! Martin Scorsese was right!” but believe us when we say you have seen nothing like Flora & Ulysses. Nothing as charming, sweet, genuine and unique as this delightful double act and the rollercoaster adventure they embark on, so much so that you will be shouting – dare we say it – “Sequel please!” when the end credits roll.

Shot with an energy and a spark that would make many an average big-studio film hold its head in shame, director Lena Khan infuses the film with a sense of adventure and wonder that please many while still keeping its story of friendship, broken homes, childhood and finding peace against seemingly insurmountable odds. She has a secret weapon, too, in the form of the witty, sharp Lawler who is the film’s revelation, utterly spellbinding as Flora with maturity and comic timing beyond her years.

Of course, it would be remiss to say that Flora & Ulysses works all the time because it doesn’t always quite click into gear – when Danny Pudi‘s “evil” animal control officer enters the fray, for example, it loses a lot of its momentum, only recapturing much later – but when it works, oh boy is it a real winner. Whilst we all wait for our favourite heroes to return to the big-screen, you could do a lot worse than let this dynamic duo fill the void.

★★★1/2


Adventure, Comedy | USA, 2021 | U | 19th February 2021 | Disney+ | Dir. Lena Khan | Matilda Lawler, John Kassir, Alyson Hannigan, Ben Schwartz, Danny Pudi,